The Monday Memo
October 21, 2019 PITT DPT STUDENTS
Is Travel Physical Therapy Right for You?
Travel physical therapy can conjure a lot of different ideas in our heads. Some may find the idea of travel PT exhilarating picturing jumping into a new setting every couple of months, traveling from city to city, getting a chance to tour the countryside along the way. Others may find the idea frightening and prefer a sense of groundedness and home. Many however, are in between but find the idea of traveling physical therapy overwhelming and are unaware where to start the process. In order to combat some of that fear and level out some of the expectations I have gathered some important information regarding the basics of travel PT, the importance of selecting a trusted recruiter, the financial benefit, and some practical challenges such as licensure.
Normally, the first step in travel PT occurs when there is a facility in need and with the use of a staffing agency/recruiter they find a traveler to fill the position. The average length of a contract for a position is 13 weeks (about 3 months). Due to a plethora of different reasons there are many openings available across the country right now for travelers. In order to ensure you get the right fit it is vital to get the right recruiter. Wanderlust PT (a recommended resource by APTA) has a variety of different recommended recruiters listed on their website. Once you have chosen a recruiter you can discuss what type of position you are interested in, such as outpatient, inpatient, SNF, pediatric facilities, etc., as well as what area of the country you are interested in working. It is important to remember that popular travel states such as California and Hawaii are non-compact states and therefore, positions here may take longer to secure as you must not only apply for a license but compete against more physical therapists.
Along with licensure and red tape challenges many times travel positions are in places where the facility is understaffed or secluded meaning you would be the only PT on site. Therefore, it is important to know what type of staff support will be there when you walk into the clinic for your first day. Especially as a new graduate, you want to make sure you are in a facility that has adequate support staff and may even be able to supply you with a faculty member for mentoring. These types of questions should be posed to both your recruiter and again further down the road during the interview process.
Although it is important to ensure you are getting the support you need in the clinic, we all know too well the significance of paying back student loans. Travel physical therapy has a clear financial benefit when compared to the traditional PT market. According to one article published by APTA “typical travel physical therapy jobs can pay 15%-20% more on average than permanent positions. Add to that benefits which often include insurance (health, life, dental, and vision), licensure reimbursements, a housing allowance, travel reimbursements, referral bonuses, and a bonus for completing a 13-week assignment.” Not to mention that some of those benefits such as the funds allocated for housing and meals are considered per diems and therefore are not taxed.
The relevant and helpful information and travel PT could be a volume of books. If the idea of travel PT inspires you, then I suggest researching some of the resources listed below, watching some of the wanderlust webinars, and reaching out to past Pitt PT alumni who have gone on to travel PT.
-Janet Mitchell, SPT
The Medical Nomads- Podcast by Dylan Callier, PT, DPT